Widowers of Madison Co. employees to retain payments - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Widowers of Madison Co. employees to get supplemental payments

Commissioners agreed to fund payments for retired spouses of deceased county commission employees. Commissioners agreed to fund payments for retired spouses of deceased county commission employees.

The Madison County Commission is taking steps to make good on a promise made to county employees.

Madison County Commissioner Roger Jones said no one anticipated the situation that brought 78-year-old Lou Larson before the commission.

"I know what I was told and what I was promised," said Larson.

At issue is that employees were promised that when they die after retirement, their spouse would continue to receive their pension. Now, some of those employees are being told that won't happen due to changes in the county's insurance coverage.

As a retired county employee, Larson and her husband get health insurance, but under the county's new plan, if she dies first, her husband's insurance gets cut off, which she was guaranteed would not happen under the old plan.

"In 1999, I was assured at the time that Blue Cross would continue coverage of my spouse after I retired and after my death," she said.

"We just didn't understand exactly what we were getting," said Jones, in reference to the dropping of spousal benefits under the new insurance plan.

"I don't care what it costs," said Commissioner Phil Riddick. "You really shouldn't be pulling the rug out from under somebody, particularly a retiree that was counting on that for all of those years."

Commissioners passed a resolution Wednesday to fund payments for retired spouses of deceased County Commission employees. The resolution was for $200 per month for 24 months. It amounts to a $30-40,000 cost to the county.

After that, commissioners can extend those payments longer if they choose to do so.

"They weren't taken care of with the new insurance that we have," said Commissioner Jones. "So by passing this resolution today, it will take care of them temporarily and get us more time as we work through this and see which direction we're going to take."

Commissioners expect most of the retiree widows are already receiving Medicare or other assistance, and the extra $200 per month should bring them close to being able to afford supplemental coverage.

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